Recently, I found myself weighing a decision of keeping my son’s well-child visit appointment, which this year included vaccinations, during the COVID-19 pandemic. I had made the appointment several months prior, but now life as we all knew it had changed. It could have easily been canceled, as the pediatrician’s office would have understood the newfound fear that left me concerned about the unseen dangers outside of my own home. The reality of unseen health risks is not unknown to me, as my other child had previously faced significant health challenges which left him unable to be vaccinated during a period in his life.
As I contemplated the easier choice of staying at home, I began to think about how many other moms may be in the same place I had once occupied. My thoughts were of moms who were worrying about non-vaccinated individuals potentially exposing their immune-compromised child to vaccine-preventable illnesses, and now the added fear of COVID-19. On a regular, pandemic-free day, the fear can be paralyzing from an already tenuous immunization percentage, which has potentially become even more compromised as families put off well-child visits and routine personal medical care.Just a generation before mine, polio, measles, diphtheria, and more were the source of worry. Fortunately for many of today’s healthy kids, these fears are often not even on the radar of parents because vaccines have worked to prevent diseases. Without question, vaccines have changed our world and made it safer, yet a statistically significant number of healthy kids are not vaccinated. This leaves both the healthy, unvaccinated child exposed to otherwise preventable diseases, while placing the lives of immune-compromised individuals at a higher risk.
There has been a recurring theme throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of “facts, not fear,” which I have found to be a comforting reminder. The truth is, I tend to lean first into fear, especially when it comes to my kids. But, my son was seen for his well-child appointment, despite my fear of what unseen germs may be lingering. The facts made it a simple decision. I have two healthy kids, which is more than could be said several years ago. One of those kids is now provided the opportunity to receive vaccinations that will not only keep him healthy, but will also keep other kids and individuals whose immune systems aren’t functioning healthy. After putting my fears of the unseen COVID-19 threat aside and replacing it with facts, I realized the most valuable point of fact from my personal internal struggle. Simply put, my healthy, vaccinated kid will help another mom not have to experience fear for the safety of her child and, after all, we really are all in this together.
Kristen Desmangles of Gilbert is a life-long resident of Arizona, a University of Arizona Wildcat, and an active member in various professional and community organizations.